In Profile: Martin Flach (AUT)
He is the 2009 Budapest ETU Duathlon European Champion in the TRI5 category for moderate leg impaired athletes; but the highlight of his career is taking a Paralympic Bronze Medal in Salt Lake City in Slalom Skiing. Let’s meet Martin Flach from Austria, the 2006 ITU TRI5 Triathlon World Champion.
What made you decide to compete in triathlon?
I was always practicing sports, even before my working accident. My main sport is alpine skiing where I am still on the national team.
I was looking for a summer sport. I always liked biking, swimming and running. With triathlon I have all these sports together in one event. I started participating in sprint events then I tested myself at the Olympic distance. My first Olympic distance triathlon was in Kitzbuhel, Austria. It seemed to be a good place to start, where Kate Allen, the Austrian Athens 2004 Olympic winner also started
What is your typical training week?
In the winter, I train mainly for alpine skiing. In the evenings, I go cross-country skiing for roughly 1.5 hours and after that I run for 45 minutes or swim for 30 minutes.
In summertime, I train before and after my work based on weather conditions. I bike every second day for two hours followed by a swim session in a lake for 30 minutes. The next day I run for 45 minutes followed by a swim session in a lake for 45 minutes. During the weekends I race either a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon if there is an event close to my home.
Many triathletes use a training log. How meticulous are you in preparation for your training?
I have a trainer who tells me what to do and checks my technique. Sometimes I have to go for medical treatment for my partial leg. When I do have problems with this, it brings my swimming training back.
What adaptations have you had to make to accommodate your disability for triathlon?
I need three different prosthesis. I have an artificial leg for swimming, one for biking and a special carbon leg for running. The running prosthesis can last a maximum of three years. The price of it is close to €7000.
Can you describe any special equipment that you use for triathlon?
My running prosthesis is made of carbon fiber and it looks like a bow. Underneath it is a rubber sole so that I am not sliding. As I jump on the spring foot, it squeezes together and moves me forward.
What is the highlight of your involvement competing in triathlon so far?
It is nice to meet interesting people. There are good friendships between non handicapped and handicapped athletes. We race the same course with the age groupers so we can compare. My first big event was the 2006 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne. I was surprised with the number of start waves. This was my first race in a lake. I was not expecting much but I won the below knee amputee class.
What are your goals for this season?
In September, I will race at the ITU World Championships in Australia. My goal during the winter season is to qualify for the Vancouver Paralympics Games in alpine skiing.
Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for individuals thinking about competing in paratriathlon?
There are a lot of good handicapped athletes. They should not be scared to try a sprint triathlon. There is no reason to hide themselves because of their disability. You have to try the impossible in order to reach the possible.
If you have any additional question about ITU Paratriathlon please contact Thanos Nikopoulos